Fair housing act text on blank business card being held by a person

What Is the Fair Housing Act?

J. Courtney Cunningham Attorney at Law  March 4, 2024

The Fair Housing Act is a law that prohibits discrimination in the rental or purchase of housing based on race, sex, nationality, familial status, or disability. The Act defines disability as a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities, which can encompass a wide range of situations. This act plays a crucial role in ensuring fair treatment for all individuals during the process of securing housing, regardless of their personal circumstances.

Discrimination under this Act can take many forms, including: 

  • Refusing to rent to someone due to their service animal 

  • Changing terms or availability upon meeting the person 

  • Denying necessary parking accommodations 

  • Refusing housing based on vouchers like Section 8 

  • Falsely denying housing availability 

  • Providing substandard housing conditions to families with children 

  • Denying physical changes to accommodate disabilities 

  • Excluding children from the community 

If you believe you've been discriminated against, it's important to document the incidents and gather any relevant paperwork, emails, receipts, or text messages as evidence. Complaints can be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), or a local agency like the Florida Commission on Human Relations within a year of the alleged discrimination. Civil suits can be filed within two years. 

As a fair housing attorney based in Miami, Florida, I'm deeply committed to upholding the rights of individuals facing discrimination. If you feel you've faced housing discrimination, reach out for an initial consultation. Together, we can ensure your voice is heard, and your rights are upheld. 

Understanding the Fair Housing Act 

The Fair Housing Act is a powerful piece of legislation that prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of: 

  • Race or color 

  • Religion 

  • Sex 

  • National origin 

  • Familial status 

  • Disability 

It's important to note that this Act doesn't just cover direct discrimination. It also addresses indirect discrimination, which includes policies and practices that may appear neutral but disproportionately impact certain groups. 

The Role of the Department of Justice 

The Department of Justice plays a crucial role in enforcing the Fair Housing Act. It has the power to bring cases against individuals or entities that engage in discriminatory practices. In some instances, the Department of Justice may file suit under both the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, particularly in cases involving discrimination in mortgage loans or home improvement loans. 

Filing a Complaint 

As an attorney focusing on disability rights and fair housing in Miami, Florida, I often assist clients in filing complaints related to discrimination. The process can seem daunting, but understanding your rights and the steps involved can make it more manageable. Here's a deep dive into the process: 

  • Understanding the Timeframe: You have one year from the date of the alleged discrimination to file a complaint with either the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or a local agency like the Florida Commission on Human Relations. Alternatively, you have two years from the date of the alleged discrimination to file a civil suit. 

  • Choosing the Right Authority: Individuals who believe they've been victims of illegal housing practices can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or file their own lawsuit in federal or state court. The Department of Justice brings suits on behalf of individuals based on referrals from HUD. 

  • Recognizing the Protections: The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing against families with children under 18, persons with disability, and persons who have a record of such an impairment or are regarded as having such an impairment. However, it affords no protections to individuals who present a direct threat to the persons or property of others. 

  • Navigating Zoning and Accessibility Requirements: The Fair Housing Act prohibits municipalities and other local government entities from making zoning or land use decisions that exclude or discriminate against individuals with disabilities. It also requires all newly constructed multi-family dwellings of four or more units intended for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, to have certain accessibility features. 

  • Holding the Right People Accountable: Developers, builders, owners, and architects responsible for the design or construction of new multi-family housing may be held liable under the Fair Housing Act if their buildings fail to meet these design requirements. 

  • Enforcement Actions: The Department of Justice has brought enforcement actions against those who failed to meet the accessibility requirements, often resulting in consent decrees providing various types of relief. 

Navigating these complex laws and processes can be challenging, but you don't have to do it alone. As an experienced attorney in this field, I can help guide you through the process, ensure your rights are protected, and advocate for your best interests. If you need assistance or want to learn more about your options, feel free to reach out to me, J. Courtney Cunningham Attorney at Law

My Role as Your Attorney 

As your attorney, I can guide you through this complex process. I've successfully advocated for clients in various cases, from forcing movie theaters to repair audio description equipment to ensuring fair housing clients receive payment from landlords. If you believe you've been a victim of housing discrimination, don't hesitate to reach out to my firm. Together, we can work towards a more inclusive and accessible housing environment for all.